Wasserman remembered

GOOD MORNING: Lew Wasserman was remembered Monday at the Universal Amphitheatre, where Universal employees joined industry toppers from all the studios, as well as show business and political figures in a final tribute to the former studio head. Politicians on hand were led by former President Clinton, VP Al Gore, Gov. Gray Davis and L.A. Mayor Jim Hahn. Clinton was the final speaker; of course, he would have been impossible to follow. He displayed the same charm, strength and knowledge that personified his political career. “Just think what Lew would have done if turned loose into the Middle East,” Clinton noted. “Lew Wasserman’s genius enabled him to take away shadows and turn dreams into realities.” The two met in the 1980s, Clinton said, adding “he helped me become president, he helped me stay president and he helped me become a better president. And he never asked me for anything. In 1995, I gave him the Medal of Freedom, long overdue.” Clinton received a hand before his speech, something none of the other speakers received. They all spoke on the giant Amphitheatre stage, decorated simply with two urns of gladiola and a row of ferns, backed by a navy blue curtain extended the length of the stage. Other speakers in the 90-minute tribute were Barry Diller, Rabbi Leonard Beerman, Sid Sheinberg, AFL-CIO chief John J. Sweeney, Suzanne Pleshette, Jack Valenti, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg. Each walked up from a row in the auditorium, unannounced, to make their remarks. Diller noted “Lew set the gold standard.” He mentioned Wasserman’s invention of profit-sharing for U employees, a concept several speakers lauded. Sheinberg, who said the knights of old were his heroes, called Wasserman his King Arthur and talked about Wasserman’s unmatched loyalty. Pleshette gave a personal history of her relationship with the Wasserman family, noting “this tribute is for Lew as well as Edie.” Spielberg said Lew had allowed him to make a four-hour oral history and also talked about Wasserman’s great charities and the sense of family that Universal employees have. Katzenberg also made special note of Wasserman’s charities, led, of course, by his participation in the Motion Picture Home & Hospital. The service ended with a traditional Kaddish prayer led by Rabbi Berman. Among those on hand were Sherry Lansing, Jonathan Dolgen, Dick Zanuck, Brad Grey, Bernie Brillstein, Gil Cates, Sharon Stone, Bob Wagner, Jill St. John, Aaron Spelling and busloads of U employees.

JACK VALENTI, WHO HAD KNOWN Lew Wasserman almost 39 years, recalled how at an MPA meeting with all the studio toppers a few years back, Bob Daly had presented a motion to which Wassermann objected. When the vote was taken, “Daly voted with Lew.” Valenti reminded that Wasserman “was a relentless, tough s.o.b in talking with labor leaders — but they always agreed with a handshake. They didn’t need any contracts when dealing with Lew,” Valenti reminded. “His byword was integrity, a term that’s in short supply today.” Wasserman had chosen Valenti for his MPA job. He allows, “I owe everything to him — it’s a debt I can never repay.”

THE HILLS (OF WESTWOOD) were alive with the sounds of children Sunday as Columbia preemed “Stuart Little 2” followed by a giant street party (underwritten by Col), all of which helped raise close to $500,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Intl., the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and Cures Now, whose aim is to forward technologies in regenerative medicine and the advancement of stem cell research. Producers Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher and their 11-year-old daughter Tessa, who has diabetes, had trekked to Washington last year to talk to solons to try to get legislation to fund stem cell research. They head to D.C. Wednesday to preem the pic there and to again make their pleas heard. … Nancy Reagan attended the party because of her interest in that research as well — for Alzheimer’s disease. Michael J. Fox (the voice of Stuart Little), is also in the fray for the stem cell research to help his battle against Parkinson’s. He told me he’s writing his second book when not at work for his Parkinson Foundation … Jonathan Lipnicki, with his right leg and wrist in casts following a fall, didn’t let the breaks stop his fun at the party’s rides along with all the other kids. Equally enjoying the party with his family was Columbia president Peter Schlessel who said Col is already at work on the “Spider-Man” sequel, with a script anticipated next week. There’s no question that a third “Stuart Little” will be made as well. Geena Davis, on hand with husband Reza Jarrahy, happily said she’s looking forward to a third outing with the lovable mouse … Next family project for Wick is “Peter Pan,” a joint Columbia, Revolution and Universal venture to shoot in Queensland. It will be the first live-action “Pan” since the 1924 silent, with George Lucas’ ILM creating its magic. Jeremy Sumpter, an up-and-coming 13-year-old, will play Peter.

HOLLYWOOD HIGH ALUMNI ARE PAGED by fellow grad Frank Darabont, who tells me the school’s little theater will be re-dedicated today (at 4 p.m.) as the Jerry D. Melton Theater. The group is led by Cheryl Bergman and those who studied under Melton or were inspired by him are urged to attend. A performing arts scholarship in his name will also be inaugurated. Sad to say Melton was recently diagnosed with cancer … Vincent Sherman celebrates his 96th birthday today. He will be on Thursday’s Acad panel toasting the 100th birthday of William Wyler with the screening of “Counselor at Law” (1933), in which Sherman appeared.

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